The husband of a South Bay mother of three who went missing nine months ago was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murdering her, despite the fact that investigators have not recovered a body.
A SWAT team took 40-year-old Larry Ibarreta Millete into custody late Tuesday morning at the eastern Chula Vista home he had shared with May “Maya” Millete, whose whereabouts have been a mystery since early this year, according to police.
During an afternoon news conference, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan unequivocally accused the suspect of killing his wife but acknowledged that “there’s going to be questions” about his arrest and prosecution due to the fact that the victim has not been found.
“California law … similar to across the nation, is very clear … that we can file murder charges despite not having a body,” Stephen told reporters. “In fact, the law is … crystal-clear that we cannot let someone murder someone and gain a benefit by … hiding the body in a way that we can’t recover it.”
May Millete’s sister reported her missing Jan. 9, two days after the last known sighting of her. Her family insisted from the outset that her absence was highly suspicious, telling news crews she would never abandon her three children, ages 4, 9 and 11, or voluntarily miss her eldest daughter’s birthday, which was days after her disappearance.
Police searched the couple’s Paseo Los Gatos house that month and two more times in May and July, and have executed nearly six dozen other warrants allowing them to seek evidence in various residences and vehicles, and from cellular and electronic devices, financial records, social media accounts and other online data, according to Lt. Dan Peak, a spokesman for the Chula Vista Police Department. Authorities also served her husband with a gun-violence restraining order.
In spite of the lengthy, multi-agency investigative efforts in the case, authorities have been unable to find May Millete or her body. On May 1, friends and relatives celebrated her 40th birthday in her absence.
Larry Millete has largely declined to address the media regarding his wife’s disappearance, though he did speak briefly to 10News San Diego by phone a few days after she was reported missing.
During the roughly 10-minute interview, he acknowledged that his marriage had been troubled for about a year, stated that he had no idea where his spouse was, expressed hope that she had simply gone away temporarily for some “alone time” and described himself as “really worried and shaken” by her disappearance.
The motive for the alleged slaying, according to the district attorney, was May Millete’s decision, “for many reasons,” to leave her husband. On Jan. 7, she contacted a divorce attorney to schedule a meeting to begin the dissolution proceedings, and investigators believe that her husband killed her that evening, after it became clear that she fully intended to end their marriage.
“Her husband … did not want a divorce,” Stephan said during Tuesday’s briefing outside Chula Vista police headquarters. “May was committed to her three young children. They were the center of her life. She wanted to continue being a parent, and … she tried to negotiate (so) that they (could) be parents to their children but not subject the children to a toxic relationship. But Larry would not have it.”
On the day of the alleged slaying, the suspect sent a “really telling” text message, according to Stephan.
“He (wrote), ‘I think she wants me to snap, and I’m shaking inside, ready to snap,”‘ the district attorney told reporters.
Stephan and Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy emphasized that authorities remain committed to finding May Millete’s body, urging anyone who might be able to help to report what they know.
“This case, the investigation in this case — while we know that Larry Millete is responsible for the murder — is ongoing, and (the hope of) bringing May home to have a proper burial for her family is ongoing,” Stephan said.
Among information that detectives still hope to glean from the public is where the couple’s black Lexus GS460 — believed to have transported the victim’s body to wherever it allegedly was disposed of — was driven on Jan. 8.
About 6 that morning, according to Stephan, a security camera captured images of Larry Millete backing the luxury car into his garage.
“He repositioned it to where no video camera (could) capture (images showing) whether a body was put in the back of the Lexus or not,” she said.
A short time later, the suspect drove off with his youngest child and did not return for more than 11 hours, Stephan told news crews.
“He (left) his phone behind so that there is no ability to track (with) GPS … (his) location on the phone,” Stephan said.
When later asked by detectives where he went that day, he claimed that he took his child on an outing to Solana Beach. When they told him to show them on a map the spot that he and the youngster visited, the suspect pointed out a beach in the Torrey Pines area, miles to the south of the area where he supposedly spent the day, according to Stephan.
Larry Millete was booked into county jail on suspicion of murder and illegally possessing an assault weapon. He was being held without bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Updated at 6:42 p.m. October 19, 2021